Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jiuhua Shan Temples Scenes

Top Right: Jiuhua shan mountain views.
Top Left: Relief of Buddha images.
Center: Detail.
Bottom Right: More views.
Bottom Left: Tomorrow's destination on another peak.

Jiuhua Shan - Abundant Clouds

There are many beautiful temples and things to see in Jiuhua Shan.
Top Right: Characters reading "Abundant Clouds". On the right side in smaller characters it says that this was written in the 57th year of the Emperor Kangxi (1711AD).
Top left: Hannah Czehatowski, Mark Van Loan (cowboy hat) and guide Wu Han walking to a temple. Wu Han, by the way, told us that if any monkeys come and bother us on the trail that he would take care of them. He said "they know the locals" and leave them alone.
Bottom Right: This is the temple on the mountain top that was seen in the picture two entries before (it's next to and above the turtle pictures).
Bottom Left: Detail

Jiuhua Shan Temples

After visiting the main temple in Jiuhua Shan we walked through a side street and onto other temples.
Top Right: Side street in Jiuhua Shan. You can hear water run through the drainage under the stone payment.
Top Left: Jiuhua Shan Temple.
Middle: Detail of stonework on the temple.
Bottom Right: Closeup of ornate columns.
Bottom Left: Stonework in front of the temple.

Jiuhua Shan

When we stepped outside the hotel the next morning a new world greeted us. We were in a small town surrounded by mountains. As we walked to the Huacheng Temple, the first temple of Jiuhua Shan, Wu Han explained the Feng Shui of the area. Pointing out that the mountains were like crouching tigers so the layout of the temple had a bow-shaped pond in front of it and along with the temple on top of the mountain in the distance it created a bow and arrow to counter the tigers.

The pond was a refuge for hundreds of goldfish and turtles. There is a Buddhist practice of saving rescuing creatures and freeing them and surrounding the pond there were stores selling turtles and fish that you could release in the pond.

All the Buddhist Mountains are dedicated to a special Buddhist Bodhisattva or Saint. Jiuhua Shan is dedicated to the Bodhisattva who is the guardian of the earth, Ksitigarbha (Dizang). One translation of his name is "Earth Store Bodhisattva". He is the Bodhisattva of Salvation. If you've been bad or done bad deeds, he's the one that decides whether to cast you into hell where awful things happen to you. The temples have statues and illustrations of people being burned, cut in half, tortured, etc. and it certainly does make the impression you don't want to end up there.

A Korean monk, Kim Kiao kak (Jin Qiaojue) arrived in Jiuhua Shan in 720 AD. It is said that he wanted to build a temple and approached the owner of the land. He was told that he could have whatever land his cassock covered. When he spread out his cassock it covered all the land and mountains around.

For more information on Jin Qiaojue, and Huacheng Temple see this link:

Top Right: Turtles (picture by MVL)
Top Left: Picture taken from the front of the temple showing the bow-shaped pond and the temple on the top of the mountain (the arrow).

Bottom Right: Fish and Turtles for sale.

Bottom Left: Turtles.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ginkgo, Motorcycles, Hefei, Jiuhua Shan

At the temple we were shown some nice trees. The first one, I understood to be a Bodhi Tree, the same type tree that Buddha sat under when he reached enlightenment. There were also some nice Ginkgo trees. Ginkgo is dates back 270 million years and is considered a living fossil. The leaves and nuts are used in Chinese medicine. Here's a link for more information on Ginkgo:
It was now time to return to Chengdu. Our next stop was a flight east to to Hefei and then on to Jiuhua Shan. On the way back I snapped pictures of some motorcycle riders carrying various things. Many people have motorcycle's and if they are not solely used for transportation then they are loaded to the max.
Our guide Ying Ying took us to the airport and got us on the plane safely. It was late afternoon and we got into Hefei when it was dark. Our new guide was Wu Han. His chosen English name was Bob. Wu Han was self taught in English and never had English speaking clients before. In fact, I'm not sure that he even had talked to someone in English before us but he was thrilled to have the chance. Wu Han took us to a restaurant in Hefei and we were shown to a small room. It is common to have private rooms in restaurants. Ours was hot and full of mosquitoes which didn't settle down until the airconditioner cooled the room off. The food was good though and after dinner we headed off into the night to Jiuhua Shan. It was hard to stay awake as we had a long day. After riding for several hours and traveling up a mountain road on our last leg we arrived at our hotel and settled in for the night. We were to meet Wu Han in the morning after breakfast.
Top Right: Bodhi Tree.
Top Left: Ginkgo.
Center: A decoratively shaped Ginkgo tree.
Bottom Right: Motorcycle rider with large baskets. Helmets are not too common in China from what we observed.
Bottom Left: A rider with empty baskets stacked behind him instead of hanging on the sides.

More of Emei Shan

We headed down the mountain in the bus full speed. At least that's what it seemed like to us. We were hanging on pretty tight. To the driver I think it was just another day on the job. The driver's wife sat in the front seat and their little boy sat on the motor cover between them. As we headed into curves full speed and braked heavily the boy would slide back and forth or sideways depending on which way we were turning. There wasn't much for him to hang onto and I think it was fun for him. The mother finally grabbed him though and had him sit on her lap until they got off the bus at one of the stops.

We made another temple stop. While waiting to get tickets we were observing the activity below us when a donkey came walking, by itself, up the road. It was loaded down with two heavy baskets of bricks. Apparently it knew where it was going. A lady finally came running up to catch it and continued in the same direction with it.

There's always steps going up to mountain temples and our legs were developing calves of steel from all the uphill walking. The walk is always worth it though. The temples and the artwork is fascinating.

Top Right: Boy in the front of the bus.
Top Left: Donkey carrying bricks.
Middle: More Stairs - empty but they should have been packed with people. The May 12th earthquake really hurt the local tourist industry.
Bottom: Another Emei Shan temple

Mountain Monkeys

We took the cable car down the mountain. There were lots of local people carrying large, heavy bags with them and we followed them down the mountain. People carry incredible loads up and down the mountain.

We returned to the bus stop and while waiting for the bus to leave a troop of monkeys made an appearance. Monkeys (macaques) are common in this area and will accost you for food if you are on the trails. If they do come up to you you're supposed to hold your hands open to show that you don't have any food. I managed to get a quick picture of a monkey in the parking lot before we left.
Top Right: Hannah Czehatowski walking down the mountain. Local people are in front of her carrying heavy bags.
Top Left: An Emei Shan macaque. Our guide told me was about a medium sized one.

Emei Shan: Sunrise on The Golden Summit

We went to bed late and got up early for the sunrise. At first we thought we would have to get up around 4:30 am but then we were reminded that there are no time zones in China. We got to sleep in until around 6:00 am instead and were treated to a beautiful sunrise. I thought how lucky we were since the tour books say the fog is often so thick you can barely see over the edge of the mountain.
Top Right: Sunrise on Emei Shan.
Middle: Mark Van Loan contemplating the sunrise.
Top Left: Another view of sunrise.
Bottom: An early morning view of the Temple on the ridge.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Emei Shan: Sunset at the Golden Summit

We had arrived late in the evening but it couldn't have been a better time. We were treated to a spectacular, rapidly changing, sunset as rays of sunlight broke through the clouds and illuminated the mountain tops far away.
Top Right: sunset on another Emei temple off in the distance.
Top Left: Sunset viewed from Emei Shan.
Bottom: (left to right) Michel Czehatowski, Guide Li Ying Ying, Mark Van Loan, and Hannah Czehatowski with the sunset to our backs.

Golden Summit Video

This video, taken by Mark Van Loan, gives you a better idea of the amazing views at the Golden Summit.

Views from The Golden Summit

Top right: Close up of Puxian Bodhisattva. Notice the Ruyi in her hands. A Ruyi is an "S" Shaped ornamental object used for good luck in ancient times.
For more information on Ruyi's see:
Top Left: The Golden Temple located behind the Puxian statue
Middle: The Silver Temple that is located across from the Gold Temple.
Bottom: Mark Van Loan contemplating the beautiful view. A view like this helps you understand the traditional paintings of cloud shrouded mountains.

Emei Shan: The Golden Summit (Jinding Si)

We left the hotel and started walking up hill when suddenly we caught sight of a beautiful statue.
We continued on to the entrance and were enthralled by what we saw. At the summit of the mountain is a huge gilded statue of Puxian Bodhisattva under a clearing sky.
I have read the Lonely Planet tour book on China and here is what they write about the Golden Summit:
"It's constantly overrun with tourists, pilgrims and monks, and you'll be continuously bumped and jostled. The sun rarely forces its way through the mists up here and the result is that it is usually impossible to see very far past your own nose."
It was just the opposite for us. The sun came out, there were few tourists (mainly because of the May 12th earthquake), and the views were spectacular. Hannah and I both agreed that it was a photographers dream.
Top Right: There's always stairs to the top!
Middle: Spectacular views.
Top Left: Our first view of the Puxian statue.
Bottom: The Puxian statue.
For more information on Puxian, click on this link:

Emei Cable Car

Taking the cable car of Emei Shan gave us tremendous views. Normally the cable car should have been packed with people but due to the earthquake tourism was down and very few people were on the cable car. Mark Van Loan took this video with his camera on the ride up.

Emei Shan (Mt. Emei), Ganoderma

We left Leshan and our driver headed to Emei Shan. Emei Shan is 130km southwest of Chengdu and is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains (the others are Wu Tai Shan, Jiu Hua Shan, and Putuo Shan). Emei Shan rises 10,226 feet and is a Unesco World Heritage Site. We started off with a two hour bus ride up the mountain taking only small backpacks with a change of clothes. Our suitcases were left behind. The drive was beautiful with mountain streams and bamboo blending into the mountain scenery. We made a stop or two on the way where I took pictures of beautiful specimens of wild Ganoderma (Japanese: Reishi mushroom) that were for sale. Wild Ganoderma is rarely available in the USA these days. Almost ganoderma imported into the USA is cultivated and is of uniform size and shape so seeing wild ganoderma (and from a special mountain at that) was a real treat.
I also spotted fresh Pseudoginseng (Chinese: San Qi or Tian Qi) which is an important herb for stopping bleeding. Usually when we buy Pseudoginseng here in the US the color is dark black. There were lots of other specimens of herbs for sale in the store which made in quite interesting for me.
When we reached our stopping point we then took a half hour hike up the mountain until we got to the cable lift which took us to a hotel at approximately 10,000 feet. At the top the air was cool and fresh and we were glad to have brought our jackets. We took about 15 minutes to get settled in our rooms and then headed up to the top to see the Golden Summit Temple (Jinding Si).
Top Right and Left: Ganoderma (Reishi).
Bottom: Pseudoginseng (San qi or Tian qi).
For more information on Emei Shan, click on this link:

Chengdu, Leshan Grand Buddha

When we arrrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, we asked our guide, Ying Ying, about the earthquake. She said it was very scary and that she (and probably the rest of the city) slept outside for two nights. We didn't spend much time in Chengdu but the city is very interesting. Here's a link for more information:

We left Chengdu and headed south to Leshan to see the Grand Buddha. The Grand Buddha was built in the Tang Dynasty starting at 713 AD. It is 233 feet tall and an amazing work of art. You can see it two ways. One is to walk down from the top. The other is to see it from the river. I thought we would have a better view from the river so we took a boat on the river. The Buddha is at the confluence of three huge rivers and at one point we could see the muddy water of one river mix with another river. There is a distinct line in the water where the two rivers meet.

Top Right: The Grand Buddha. Note the people at the base of the statue.
Middle: The Face of the Grand Buddha.
Top Left: People walking down the stairway along the side of the Grand Buddha.